novels · writing

Lessons from the Monster: Endings

It’s time for another lesson on what not to do, ghastly mistakes courtesy of myself and The Monster. For anyone who has not already heard me bemoaning it, The Monster is a half million word long catastrophe of a novel, with which I’m fairly sure I made every mistake in the book of mistakes while writing.

Today’s topic? Ending your novel. 

I love and hate ending a novel. I love it because it means a giant project is finished, and I can move on to the next thing. I hate it because I have yet to write a book that I hate, and therefore I’m always sad to leave my characters and that particular world behind.

But there’s more love in ending a novel than hating. Just because I love writing endings, of course, doesn’t mean I’m good at it.

We’re going to cover the first three books today – Sacred Promise, Angel from Hell, and Nobody’s Angel. I had an interesting challenge, because I wanted to make the ending of each book a serious cliffhanger so that you absolutely had to read the next one.

There were some good points to the endings and some bad ones. So, let’s break it down, shall we?

Sacred Promise

We took the chartered plane back to Mexico, and from there we boarded a plane toSan Francisco,California. I was worried about Rihanna. I hadn’t heard from her. Hell wouldn’t really kill her, would he?

When our bus arrived in Red Haven, my name was called over the loudspeakers. There was a message for me.

Guess who it was from.

Hello Angel. Welcome back to hell. 

I just love Hell. He’s a character that never fails to make things interesting. The end of Sacred Promise was a classic example of how Hell likes to psyche out his opponents. And knowing that’s important.

The problem with it was that in the space of a chapter, everything was turned upside down. Before that, we had a steady plot arc moving forward, everything neat and tidy – and suddenly there’s a death threat on an entirely different continent, forcing Angelica to drop everything and run to her friends’ rescue.

I know exactly how that problem arrived, but there’s maybe one hint at it during the novel. It was too out-of-the-blue.

Now I know exactly how this novel is going to end, and I don’t know why I didn’t do it that way in the beginning. Ah well, live and learn!

Lesson learned: Big problems need a lead-up, no matter how small. Otherwise, it’s too abrupt and messes up the story-line.

Angel from Hell

I slowly pulled away from Rihanna and put the phone to my ear. Did Dad know? Did he know that I was the Angel from Hell? That I’d been the one who shot at him?

“H-hi Dad.”

Dad’s deep, calm voice filled my ear. “Welcome back, sweetheart. Or should I say, Angel from Hell?”

Angel from Hell is my all-time favorite book out of the entire Monster. I love it that much. The ending in this novel was much smoother (I really did learn my lesson from the first book! Yay me!).

I’m trying to figure out how to explain what’s wrong with this ending without having to try to explain the entire plot, but I’m not having much luck.

Whatever! I’ll tell you what I love about this ending, then.

In the very last paragraph of the last chapter, Angel is confronted with a whole new set of problems. She’s never been the most law-abiding of people, and her only safety was in her anonymity. Now her worst enemy knows her true identity. Dun dun dun!

Chaos will ensue, bombs will go off, giant guns will be fired. It’s all pretty exciting. She’s even gone back to the original setting of book one, so now her mother’s stalker is thrown into the mix.

Sigh.

This was a fun book to write.

Lesson learned: Your best writing comes when you’re having more fun with your computer than with ice cream! But we all already knew that 🙂

Nobody’s Angel

“Let’s get her in the car,” I heard Dad say. I felt like throwing up. Blood was trickling off my forehead and down into my eyes.

Why hadn’t I listened to Rihanna?

Dad picked me up, holding me almost tenderly. I struggled to hold onto consciousness as I felt him carrying me outside. This could not be happening. This was wrong. I had to get back to the hospital. I had to get to Dominic.

There was the slam of the car door. A third voice reached me through my fog, and then: complete and utter darkness.

Poor, poor Angel. She’s always getting her butt kicked.

With Nobody’s Angel, there is one major, glaring error: the ending is horribly, horribly rushed. The word count for this novel ended up being 87,000 words, when the two previous books had been 81,000. I just wanted it to be over, and somewhat at the same length as the others, so I started condensing things.

Your two best friends died? That’s too bad, Angel. You only have two paragraphs to get over it.

OMG, your mom practically bought you on eBay? Sucks for you! One paragraph for that, cause it’s really not important, you know?

YOU’RE DYING? Shoot, girl. You only get one sentence for that, because your coming demise was inevitable, anyway.

You see what I mean? Going back to this novel, the ending will probably get another 1 or 2k added on, at least. A lot happened, and it all needs its proper due.

Lesson learned: DON’T RUSH THE ENDING. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to write it, or even if you’re sick to death of the novel. The most awesome novel in the world can be ruined by a bad ending.

I know I said we were only covering books one through three, but I feel like I cheated you on book two, so, BONUS! We’re doing book five, too. I don’t like book four’s ending.

Dark Angel Rising

They’d left me. Alone. I was alone. Just me against the world. Again.

Angel, stop it.

Screw the world. I rolled out of bed.

Angel, please don’t do this. They weren’t trying to hurt you. You’re angry, that’s all. You can’t do this. Not after everything you’ve done to–

“Shut up.”

I left my bedroom and started downstairs. I was sick of being left behind, sick of being labeled a threat when I had done nothing wrong. If they were going to burn me, it had damn well better be for something I’d actually done. I grabbed Hell’s sniper rifle off the rack.

They wanted a psychotic murderer? I’d give them one.

I’m actually kind of fond of this part of the novel. Not so much this part where Angel finally snaps, but earlier in the chapter, when it looked for a moment like they were all going to be happy and safe.

Some things can be checked off as done right. I didn’t rush anything (the book ended up being 114,000 words. Eeek!). Things had proper build-up. There were still surprises and new things to discover, and the hint of betrayal. So what’s wrong with this ending?

At first, I was stumped as to why the ending felt a little sour. Then, as I looked for a cue in the dialogue, it hit me.

Angel, Hell, Dominic, Rihanna, Tandy, and even General Hanneman – they all showed their bad side. Desertion and betrayal run rampant. The life of a baby is put in the balance, and bad choices are made.

All characters make bad decisions at some point; otherwise, they wouldn’t be human. But all of my key characters made bad decisions all at once. Their team fell apart. Great for tension, but not so much for identifying with characters.

Lesson learned: It’s always important to keep your characters likeable, but so much more so at the end! If the readers hate the characters at the end, they won’t even care to find out what happens next!

And that is the end! I kept my promise and didn’t use all six books for examples 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Lessons from the Monster: Endings

  1. have I told you before that I LOVE these posts? I have…. O.o Oh…. welll i’ll say it again! Thanks these are always uber helpful! The examples really help clear things up. Maybe i’ll do something similar for BTE?

  2. OMG these posts are amazing! I can already see myself applying these lessons to STARSONG/future projects. AND I’ve been waiting for this post for a while!
    Keep these coming!
    =)

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